zhigwe/aim week 8

Barry Ace, Nigik Makizinan - Otter Moccasins (2014)

Week 8 - Barry Ace, Nigik Makizinan - Otter Moccasins (2014)

Barry Ace (Odawa) is a practicing visual artist and currently lives in Ottawa, Canada. He is a band member of M’Chigeeng First Nation, Manitoulin 
Island, Ontario. His mixed media paintings and assemblage textile works explore various aspects of cultural continuity and the confluence of the historical and contemporary.

In his art practice Barry Ace replicates traditional beadwork patterns and then juxtaposes this with reclaimed computer components, primarily resistors and flat ceramic capacitors – in this way he speaks to cultural transition. Ace’s work examines and exemplifies Indigenous culture ability to adapt to changing social, cultural, physical and technological change.

Ace is echoing Anishinaabe culture’s ability to transform the glass beads brought by European colonizers into complex geometric and floral motifs as both an adaptive and aesthetically response. Generations of Indigenous people have and continue to adapt to cultural, intellectual and physical conditions and this is indicative of the people’s cultural tenacity and the innate strategic desire to overcome even the most adverse conditions imposed from point of contact onward.

In this work Ace is continuing his process of using found objects with which he then “works” with traditional forms and motifs. His objective is to disrupt our expectation of what the objects should or would look like. The bridging of forms from the past to the present is in keeping with many Anishinaabe philosophies that understand knowledge as relational – that knowledge is activated and perpetuated as movement through reciprocal networks that exist across time and space.

The art work Nigik Makizinan reflects the connections Ace is making across time and space – the re-purposed leather shoes imitate traditional trail duster moccasins where hide fringes sewn at the heel covered the wearer’s footprints. The modern repurposed shoes have been fitted with otter pelts – an important part of ceremonial clothing. The connection Ace is making between the Otter Moccasins and our contemporary experience of surveillance and cyber attacks is the way these trailer dusters can hide our cyber tracks. (Alex Nahwegahbow, (2016) Mnemonic (Re) Manifestations, Karch- Masson Gallery, Ottawa, ON)

Ace’s work reflects what he recognizes as an Indigenous fascination with popular culture and technology and the ways these have been adapted into a uniquely Indigenous cultural aesthetic. Ace’s statement leads me to consider the work of A Tribe Called Red who, without losing sight of their past, straddle a broad range of musical influences based in modern hip-hop, traditional pow wow drums and vocals, blended with edgy electronic music production styles. 

For More information on A Tribe Called Red see:  http://atribecalledred.com/bio/

For More information on Barry Ace see:


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